Freo Basking in its Festival

Fremantle Blessed

I first went to The Blessing of the Fleet back in 1977. Since then I’ve photographed about thirty-three or four of them.

The Blessing of the Feet – as my son Ben used to call it – always seems like the real start of summer. It is a religious ceremony held with great dignity, the visible end of weeks of preparation planned by the committee who work from a small shed in White Gum Valley. It has now become central to the Fremantle Festival which allows the city and some of its creative extroverts to go gang busters at exhibitions, a massive street parade, concerts, coffee competitions, pasta eating competitions … and so on.

Roll on Summer

The Freo festival rolls us into our summer, the sea breeze makes life bearable and Christmas is just around the corner. Then we have the buskers’ festival (as I still insist calling it) at Easter, acting as the backstop to summer. Warm nights. cold beers, parades of vintage yank tanks and the occasional outbreak of music on The Strip underline what the Fremantle lifestyle is about.

Here, for a kickoff, are a few pictures of this years 65th anniversary of the Blessing of the Fleet as well as some dating back nearly 40 years. With the co-operation of the BoF committee and in tandem with a photographic colleague, Lidia D’Opera, there will be a book launched, hopefully at the beginning of next years festival, which will be a history of the event with pictures dating from 1948 through to this years significant anniversary.

All pictures © Roger Garwood & Lidia D’Opera 2013

Copyright Lidia D'Opera

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Fremantle Harbour Fog April 2012

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Fremantle’s Elections: Opposition Totally Ineffective

Fremantle Elections Less Than Nail Biting.

New Council On Notice As Social Media Wins the Day

Fremantle town Hall: Waiting for the election results. © Roger Garwood 2013
Fremantle Town Hall: Waiting for the election results.
© Roger Garwood 2013

The election count at Fremantle Town Hall on Saturday evening was a less than nail-biting experience. Years ago several hundred people would turn out to watch the results being chalked on a blackboard and in later years, when hi-tech stuff took over, a whiteboard.

An exuberant crowd of voters would become silent as a tally number was rubbed out and replaced with a fresh total. Frequently the elections were close. Finally the results indicated which candidate won and which had, well, been rubbed out.

Sterile Process

Saturday evening’s barely detectable frisson of  excitement depended on an occasional leak from the tally room. The results emerged a little later than expected and one by one sitting councillors breathed again, had pictures taken on iPhones and any talk of close results vaporised as the numbers came up on a computer screen. Sadly the process was sterile.

Many people had hoped for a close race, a change of face here and there. In the event the sitting council gained a clear mandate for its progress thus far. No sitting councillors were rolled and most recorded massive and increased margins.

What Accounted for Council’s Overwhelming Public Endorsement?

The weather may have accounted for the poor public  turnout at the town hall but what accounted for the massive endorsement of the sitting council? The past four years have seen a great deal of resistance to council’s plans. Principle among those has been the opposition to the location of  the youth plaza on The Esplanade and the open ended and all encompassing approval  by council for towering developments in the city

There may have been apathy among those who considered voting  a waste of time in the face of proposed council mergers. About 60% of eligible voters didn’t bother. It could be said that a non existent vote is an endorsement of the current council.

That point does not ring true. A more likely reason is a lack of co-ordination between the various groups who attempted to form tangible opposition individually.  A number of small organisations, all with individual interests but collectively with a broader interest in the terms of the city’s management, failed to co-ordinate their efforts in the face of a well orchestrated campaign.

Social Media Was the Winner

Brad Pettitt’s campaign on social media was highly successful. Anybody who regularly received posts from him and his followers could not be blind to the enthusiasm of his supporters. It gave a strong impression of coordinated teamwork. Nor was the mayor complacent in the face of his opposition, Mathew Hansen,  who endured massive insults on social media. (See Fremantle Backchat: “Freo’s Shock Blog Derails Democracy”.  Oct 15 2013)

Thus the current council, with many plans in place, must now concentrate on the next four years – the home run – not withstanding the proposed amalgamation. Councillors are aware the city’s future is under scrutiny, not only from the pending amalgamation but from developments already approved or waiting approval. Leading up to the campaign, in fact part of the campaign, were many mainstream media articles related to the city’s ‘rebirth’.

Council Now On Notice: No Effective Opposition

On the latter point councillors are aware they are on notice. If one poor quality development  emerges it is likely to trigger a massive backlash.

Maybe the real threat to Fremantle is amalgamation. Currently nobody seems to know what will happen. A reasonable hypothesis is that  East Fremantle and Melville will wish to retain their leafy suburbs. Fremantle, with fewer voices in its management, may experience little more than a progression of what has happened since 1983 when seeds were sown during the America’s Cup era. They grew Fremantle into a city which is now little more than a weekend playground and entertainment centre. This resulted in massive rent and high maintenance costs in the city as well as increased anti-social behaviour. The city lost it’s community based local patronage. The danger is the two councils grafted onto the city may wish to have things remain that way – Fremantle a playground surrounded by a leafy suburb.

Thus the future of the city is not only in the hands of current management but must be considered and projected by coordinated opposition groups who are currently disparate and ineffectual.

Freo’s Shock Blog Derails Democracy?

Have Roel Loopers’ insults wrecked an election campaign?

An article, published in The Conversation earlier this year, underlined unethical practices in journalism.

The author, Denis Muller, opens with the comment:

“An integral power of the media is that of portrayal: the act of determining how people, events, ideas and organisations are described to the public, and therefore how they are perceived by the public”.

<http://theconversation.com/ethical-lapses-by-journalists-contributed-to-gillards-demise-15595&gt;

Thus, if we are to accept freedom of speech within our mainstream media, which operates under a code of professional ethics,  should we apply the same ethics to the writers of blogs?

Blogs are excellent vehicles for local, national and international comment but some lack the basic tenets of social respect let alone the laws of defamation.

The incumbent Mayor of Fremantle, Dr Brad Pettitt,  has said:

“I like that Fremantle has a vibrant blogging scene. It is hard to think of any other community that has so many active bloggers and I think, despite my regular frustrations with inaccuracies  etc, it is  a whole lot more a positive than negative.That said I’d like blogs (just as I’d like the Fremantle Herald and Gazette) to talk to me or the relevant person before going to print if they have questions or concerns. The instant nature of blogs means this rarely happens which is – to be polite – somewhat challenging at times”.

Shock Jock Tactics: Loopers’ Crass Insults

In recent weeks, during the current campaign for positions on Fremantle’s council and the two-way contest for the Mayor’s job, a local blogger has descended into little more than shock jock tactics and crass hypocrisy. Comments with little or no intelligent input have been bandied about and may have been instrumental in derailing one candidate’s campaign.

Fremantle has become ‘blog central’. Most of the city’s bloggers make intelligent, well considered, comments. They make no exaggerated claims as to their worth in the community but proceed in a respectful manner and make the most of Australia’s right of free speech.  In Fremantle we have, in addition to the more intelligent input, the ‘Shock Blogger” or “The Dodgy Blogger” who, for reasons best known to him, tends to shoot from the lip. He has been noted as being a poor man’s impersonation of Alan Jones.

Regular outbursts have seen a number of people who do not toe his line of thought or have remote disagreements with him, labelled, bullies, cowards and liars et al while he hides behind right of free speech espousing his theories of social decency.

Bullshit Mr Loopers

Roel Loopers, who claims Freo’s View is the city’s ‘most popular blog’ has to stand accused of  “Bullshit”.

Let it now be levelled at him the  fact that he is a liar, a choker and a well polished hypocrite. Maybe not go so far as calling him a Nazi and coward as he did with a mayoral candidate. But ‘coward’ may be appropriately applied to Loopers –  a person with a penchant for pathetically begging for work in the face or his openly admitted failures while condemning successful people as ‘dead beats and has beens’.

Loopers apparently spits the dummy at every opportunity. In the face of opposition candidates emerging in City Ward he broke his repeated public promise to stand for council offering no explanation. Is that cowardice or just simply being afraid to face competition – chickening out? It should be remembered that he persuaded a potential president of the Fremantle Society from running for the job, telling people he could do better but would only run if he did so unopposed. In the event he was ineffectual and said so in his note at the time of his (second) resignation, complaining that nobody listened to him and he was tired of banging his head against a brick wall.

Or was that dummy spit simply because the society had ceased to become useful to him when their accommodation facility had come to an end?

Did ‘Lickspittle’ Loopers Derail Democracy?

In the face of Loopers accusing Hanssen of being a coward he did not take into account the candidate’s repeated attempts at facing voters to gain public positions, often ridiculing his election promises without offering alternative ideas. Had he forgotten that Matthew Hanssen had made Fremantle a marginal seat in this years state election, gaining about 40% of the popular vote? Politics aside Hanssen cannot be accused of choking but has to be credited with his persistence and rugged determination. Nor should his policies be dismissed. Many of them have broad popular support.

Loopers has emerged as little more than a lickspittle, a person with an obsequious attitude to people in positions of authority or who may be useful to his relentless, narcissistic, drive for popularity.

He was looking forward to preening his self admitted ego by being a mediator in a mayoral debate. That narcism was quashed when Matthew Hanssen objected to Loopers mediating. It is arguable that Loopers’ constantly changing opinions and frequently being forced into apologising for so many errors of fact, not to mention public insults of successful people, made him the least suitable choice of mediator.  And from then onwards  The Dodgy Blogger took every opportunity to attack the candidate. It is arguable that Loopers has derailed the very democratic process he claims to love. His vitriol and demonstrable lies, as well as accusations of bullying against people who challenge him, are becoming legendary.

Did Loopers’ attacks derail Hanssen’s campaign?  Matthew Hanssen was offended by the behaviour of previous audiences and reasonably asked for several changes to be made to the debate’s structure. He was deeply offended by Loopers’ remarks and it is reasonable to assume that a general accumulation of biased insults may have prompted Hanssen’s ‘no show’.  Arguably a very important part of our democratic system was derailed because of  Loopers rants. By making them he demonstrated his crass hypocrisy.

Hanssen has refrained from detailed comment and Dr Pettitt, effectively given a free kick, chose not to use it to attack his opponent. It is a pity that the process became flawed by ill considered comments. It is in the hands of organisers of future debates to tread very carefully when it comes to choosing mediators.

“He (Loopers) will stoop to whatever low necessary …”

How can Loopers,  in virtually the same breath, justifiably attack people who deface Matthew Hanssen’s election posters, caricaturing him as Hitler and then, in a contemptible attack on the candidate’s character,  liken Hanssen to Nazis and call him a coward? That would at least be offensive and, in the extreme, defamatory. The insult was published by Loopers in a widely circulated email. Matthew Hanssen has revealed to Backchat:

“I was sent the rather unnecessary  email from Loopers directly to my email account and it went to all of the organisers of the previously scheduled meeting. It was the one which made reference to me being a Nazi. I responded via email with the fact I was offended and that he should otherwise stop. I haven’t received an email from him since”.

” … obviously Loopers motivation is to see the Mayor re-elected. He will stoop to whatever lows he feels are necessary to achieve that”

In a reference to Loopers becoming a mediator Hanssen continued:

“if you cannot run a civilised debate, in the forum of the Chamber of Commerce boardroom, run by the CEO [Tim Milsom] then what chance have you got when Loopers is organising it”

It is surprising that Hanssen hasn’t taken legal action. It is known Loopers retreats when action is threatened.

Don’t be afraid to challenge dodgy blogs

It is time for those people who tolerate or endorse Loopers, feed his ego and dangerous narcism, to recognise him for what he is. But there seems to be a fear of taking him on, of questioning his stands. One commentator has said:

“People are reluctant to take him on because they are afraid of him posting adverse comments about them”.

That commentator offered a justifiable reason. He pointed out, for example, that if a person was applying for a job and the prospective employer conducted web search for background information and found something damaging written by Roel Loopers, it could wreck a chance of employment.

There is nothing to fear – The Dodgy Blogger’s figures are misleading

However, Loopers’ blog readership is not all it’s cracked up be. He frequently claims that his blog has had a new record number of hits. And so it may. But Loopers fixation with posting about 8-10 blogs a day leads to a high ‘readership’ which he implies without looking at the statistics correctly. For example, if he posts 10 ‘stories’ a day and the same 200 people hit on them, that counts as 2000 hits. Thus, by any analysis he probably only has about 250 to 300 viewers. Barely enough to be reckoned with and not enough to fear.

NOTE: Previous  Fremantle Backchat blogs are on Fremantlebackchat.com.

That blog site has been changed and older blogs will  be moved to this site: